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Nationals battle back, but fall to Cubs

Nationals battle back, but fall to Cubs

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Jason Bergmann has made a lot of progress this season. A year after getting roughed up as a reliever, Bergmann is arguably the Nationals' best starter.

On Thursday night, he had another good outing, pitching 5 1/3 innings and giving up two runs on five hits against the Cubs. But, like most of his starts, Bergman was left with a no-decision, his fifth of the season, in a 4-2 loss to the Cubs at RFK Stadium.

Bergmann has a respectable 3.47 ERA for the first half of the season and has only one win to show for it. It doesn't help that Washington's offense has struggled all season. In his starts, the Nationals average 2.27 runs. Talk to Bergmann about the lack of run support, and he'll tell you that the bats will wake up sooner or later.

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"You can't let it get to you," Bergmann said. "If you start thinking, 'When am I going to get a run or not going to get a run?' it affects your pitching. [The position players] are doing their jobs as best they can. They faced some good pitchers this series. The Cubs have a great staff. We'll get the run support. They are great hitters. It's going to happen. I'm not worried about it. My job is to throw quality innings."

First baseman Dmitri Young knows what Bergmann is going through in terms of having a tough time getting victories. When he was a member of the Tigers, Young saw right-hander Jeremy Bonderman win just six games in 28 starts. Today, Bonderman is one of Detroit's top starters on a pennant-winning club.

"As a young pitcher, [these are] some of the things Bergmann has to go through. But he doesn't complain. I respect him for that," Young said. "Jeremy Bonderman had the same problem. He is not having that problem at all right now. [You] just [have to have] patience and [keep] believing in your stuff. We believe in it, and it's going to turn around for him."

In Thursday's game, Bergmann wanted to show that his last start against the Pirates, in which he gave up six runs on eight hits, was a fluke. He did that, for the most part. He retired 10 of the first 11 hitters he faced, but he got in trouble in the fourth and sixth innings. In the fourth, Aramis Ramirez drove in Daryle Ward with an RBI single. Two innings later, Ward drove in Mike Fontenot with a double to left-center field. Bergmann would face one more hitter in the sixth before manager Manny Acta lifted him for left-hander Billy Traber.

"After my last outing in Pittsburgh, I was really disappointed," Bergmann said. "I thought I digressed a little bit. There was work to be done. I worked hard to keep the ball down. There was one inning where I came apart a little bit. Today was not a strikeout day. I let them put the ball in play and let them get outs."

The Nationals did prevent Bergmann from losing the game, tying it in the bottom of the sixth against Cubs left-hander Sean Marshall. Young tripled home Ryan Zimmerman and Austin Kearns drove in Young with a sacrifice fly.

But the Cubs put the game away in the seventh with right-hander Luis Ayala on the mound. With runners on first and third, Fontenot singled to center field to drive in Angel Pagan to make it a 3-2 game.

Ward followed with a sacrifice fly to send home Alfonso Soriano.

"You can't be surprised about anything that happens in the game," Acta said. "You are going to get some guys out sometimes. Sometimes, you are going to get hit. Ayala left a couple of pitches up and they hit him. At this level, they make you pay for those type of mistakes."

The Nationals had one more chance to get a rally going against reliever Carlos Marmol in the eighth. They had runners on first and second and one out, but Kearns struck out and, after Felipe Lopez walked to load the bases, Brian Schneider lined out hard to Ward at first base to end the inning. For the game, the Nationals left eight runners on.

"We have been through it for a while now," Acta said. "We are going to snap out of it. We are going to get some hits."

The Cubs took three out of four games in the series, dropping the Nationals' record to 34-51.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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